Minnetonka, Minn.–In 50 Jewelers/50 States, National Jeweler interviews one retailer in each of the 50 U.S. states to find out how they are meeting the challenges of the changing retail environment.
In Minnetonka, Minnesota, Liz Greene-Simmons of Evergreene Jewelers says that her role as a store owner requires her to be a jill of all trades.
While mastering all manner of modern-day business practices, from technology to marketing, like many independent jewelers, Greene-Simmons is a baby boomer trying to crack the millennial code.
She spoke with National Jeweler about the cost of business today and the importance of maintaining classic customer service values.
Founded in 1979, Evergreene Jewelers in Minnetonka, Minnesota, is located in a freestanding home. The house itself is about 2,000 square feet, with the showroom occupying about 800 feet. The store has six employees and is owned by Liz Greene-Simmons.
National Jeweler: What’s the biggest challenge your store is facing?
Liz Greene-Simmons: There are many challenges.
One is the cost of overhead, which includes inventory, rent, security, insurance, sales staff, commissions and computer software programs. In the past, we never had to have all of these computer programs. The cost of business has just gone up.
Slow-moving merchandise is a challenge.
Plus marketing–you better be super smart at knowing how to market these days. It’s no longer limited to just putting ads in newspapers and the Yellow Pages. It’s social media, e-blasts, a website.
It’s incredible what we jewelers are up against. It’s just unbelievable. The cost of doing business coupled with the downturn of sales is putting us in a very uncomfortable situation.
With the internet, QVC and eBay, there is such a surplus of inventory available at all different angles that the jewelry store is no longer the special place to really come and look at jewelry.
There’s so much inventory on all mediums.
NJ: What’s the top-selling category and brand at your store?
LGS: It still would be fine diamond jewelry, bridal jewelry. It’s still your diamond necklaces and earrings and, of course, your diamond engagement rings.
The beautiful thing for jewelers, if our businesses have been around, is that people come to you because they trust you. Unfortunately, for a lot of us who are baby boomers, we’ve really worked with a particular clientele, but now we need to appeal to millennials, and where are they going? That’s what we’re trying to figure out.
As far as brands go, we’re not very brand-oriented. We’re primarily branding ourselves–Evergreene Jewelers.
Liz Greene-Simmons, pictured center, loves spending time with her family.
NJ: Who is your regional customer?
LGS: It definitely ranges but our target market customer is that woman between 25 and 65.
That woman could be looking for an engagement ring or an anniversary present, a birthday or Christmas gift.
My dad has always said, “We’re in the happy business, and love has no season.” A lot of times the woman does drive the jewelry sale, and if she comes to your store and she likes you and she likes what she sees, she might put something on her wish list and ask her husband to come in and get something for her.
NJ: What’s the most popular style of engagement ring with your clientele now?
LGS: It’s got to be a one-carat, halo-set right now. It’s still pretty popular.
Just a pretty solitaire with maybe a halo of diamonds or just the classic one-carat, that seems to be the real draw for a lot of young people.
Round brilliant is still our top-seller, as is 14-karat white gold. Obviously there are people who want platinum but, especially when they’re a little bit out of budget, they’d rather put that money perhaps into the center stone and then just work with the gold.
NJ: Which social media accounts are important to your business?
LGS: Right now it’s Facebook, and we’re trying to work toward Instagram.
NJ: Do you have e-commerce?
LGS: We do. I’m not getting much action on that at all. Just with a particular company we do have it, and we would love to see those sales increase a little more.
We’re absolutely finding that customers have pre-shopped online before they come into the store though.
NJ: What’s the best piece of advice you’d offer to other independent jewelry stores?
LGS: You have to earn your customers trust each and every day.
The customer does come first, so you always want to treat them with the utmost respect and yet running the business you have to really know your inventory. And don’t buy too much (laughs).
Also, it’s important to really like being in your store and really like what you’re doing, because you eat, live and breathe it, so to speak. You have to have the energy for it, because it’s not an easy business.
One day you might be changing watch batteries, then you might be piercing ears and in the next breath you’re trying to sell a diamond ring and in the next breath you’re marketing your business, and then you’re trying to work with your staff and encourage them, and trying to put little fires out. It’s a big job.
You better really like what you do because you’re going to put a lot of time into it.
NJ: What’s a fun fact about you we can share with our readers?
LGS: I love to waterski and sail and walk with my dog, and I love my family.